Ahh yes, the gluten debate. Similar to the argument of Paleo vs. Vegan, nothing seems to be as polarizing than the latest health report claiming what is killing us (faster).
There are studies proving that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a legitimate concern - causing gastrointestinal distress and other non- GI symptoms like depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, skin conditions, etc.
On the other hand, there are studies claiming that “gluten sensitivity” is a made up health condition encouraging consumers to spend more money on creatively marketed ‘gluten-free’ products.
What is the truth?
If you have been reading my blog for awhile now, you probably know that I am on the anti-gluten bandwagon.
Does this mean I think that EVERYONE should avoid gluten like the plague?
Absolutely not. Let me explain.
First, a few definitions:
a disease in which the small intestine is hypersensitive to gluten, leading to difficulty in digesting food.
Non-Celiac Gluten sensitivity:
a clinical entity induced by the ingestion of gluten leading to intestinal and/or extra-intestinal symptoms that resolve once the gluten-containing food is eliminated from the diet.
And lastly… what IS gluten? (from this website)
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.
Basically, gluten is the substance that gives bread and other baked goods the doughy, fluffy texture making them so delicious and addictive.
The amount of people suffering from celiac disease and Non-celiac gluten sensitivity has increased dramatically over the past few years, in addition to other true food allergies like tree nuts, eggs, dairy, soy, etc.
A true food allergy constitutes symptoms like itchy mouth and anaphylaxis, which are much more acute than the symptoms of food sensitivities.
The reason for increased food sensitivities?
Increased exposure to food allergens (as listed above) which are common components of nearly every processed and packaged food on the market.
Repeated exposure of these allergens to those with compromised gut function or altered gut flora (read: nearly everyone) will often cause an imbalance of secretory IgA, the antibody responsible for modulating the immune system and protecting against an autoimmune response.
In other words, eating a lot of processed foods (usually containing gluten, dairy, soy, and tree nuts ) can lead to an increased susceptibility of autoimmune symptoms like joint pain, brain fog, hives, rashes, arthritis, hair loss, headaches and more.
So, who DOESN’T need to eliminate gluten?
If you have no health concerns, solid digestion and generally feel like a million bucks, eating gluten as a part of a wide variety of nutrient dense foods is TOTALLY FINE.
Of course, choosing the least processed versions of your favorite gluten-containing foods is our bodies preferred choice; and as long as you are listening to your bodies’ response from eating gluten (and every other food you eat…) you will be A-ok.
I’m willing to bet, though, if you are reading this, you probably don’t feel amazing.
When I began having digestive problems as a teenager, I tested negative for celiac disease. For this reason, I continued to eat gluten for years despite feeling like it ‘didn’t agree’ with me. Over time I learned more about the connection between gut health and mood, and only after removing gluten from my diet and healing my gut did my unexplained depression and joint pain subside. For this reason, I take a ‘why not?’ approach with my clients, meaning; if you are suffering - why not try removing gluten for at least 1 month and see what happens?
Here are a few of the major symptoms that can be relieved from eating a gluten-free diet:
- ADHD-like behavior
- “Brain Fog"
- Bone and Joint Pain
- Chronic Fatigue
- Headaches/ Migraines
Lastly, it really doesn’t matter what the latest study says, what the newest health trend is, or what some health-guru says is the key to longevity. If something feels right to you and improves YOUR health, feel confident knowing that you are doing the right thing for your health and your body. Mainstream "health" marketing is constantly trying to separate us from our bodies' innate wisdom because it is much easier to sell a product that will "fix" us than it is to be mindful and introspective.
Tell me: Do you eat gluten-free? Why or why not?